Is paying to be the greatest really all that great?

The latest list of the best places to work in the UAE loses its credibility when you know everyone had to pay to be part of the list, says Shane McGinley
Is paying to be the greatest really all that great?
Shane McGinley
By Shane McGinley
Fri 20 Mar 2015 02:26 AM

This week the Great Place to Work Institute UAE revealed its fifth annual list of the ‘Top 15 Companies to Work For in the UAE’ at a fancy awards ceremony at Rixos The Palm resort in Dubai.

Sitting atop the list for the second year running was DHL. Others among the top 10 include Ericsson, THE One, Estee Lauder, Hyatt, FedEx and Master Card.

Scrolling down the press release and it explains that any UAE company with 50 or more employees is eligible to participate, which is fair enough as only with a sizeable workforce can you really determine how good a company’s HR policies really are.

The issue I had was when it says it is a ‘fee-based program’. I have no issues with DHL or any of the other winners and I congratulate them on their rankings, but I think the closed eligibility reduces the entire credibility of the list.

Further probing revealed that companies have to pay a minimum of AED70,000 (nearly $20,000) to be able to be considered for the list, with many more paying even more than that for more extensive HR consultancy work.

Taking that into account, it was also revealed that a total of just 100 or more companies in the whole of the UAE decided to apply, pay the fee and be part of the list.

That might sound like a lot, when you consider 15 are chosen, but, it really isn’t. Dubai Chamber reports that it alone has around 160,000 companies listed in Dubai as members, as of June last year.

And that’s just companies that are part of Dubai Chamber. This is also only Dubai and the list is supposed to cover the whole of the UAE.

At this rate the companies that are part of the program represent a lot less than 0.01 percent of the companies in Dubai. That’s hardly extensive. So the list maybe should be retitled the ‘Top 15 Companies to Work For in the UAE from a Pool of Those Willing to Pay $20,000 or More’?

For the list to be really credible I think it should be run by a not-for-profit organisation. Then companies that are really best, but maybe don’t want, or are unable, to spend that amount of money will be eligible and everyone will have a level playing field.

Until then, I’m not convinced.


Response from Ron Thomas, CEO, Great Place to Work Gulf:

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to an opinion editorial by your senior reporter Shane McGinley published on 20 March 2015 entitled “Is paying to be the greatest really all that great?”

While we respect and value Shane’s opinion, we would like to draw your readers’ attention to some information in his article that we feel has been misrepresented.

On the subject of cost of participation, Great Place to Work makes no secret of the fact that there is a fee charged to clients to participate in the Top Companies program. This is to cover the cost of our research team to interview employees (no less than 50 people in an organisation) and to assess the client’s HR practices. On average we invest up to 10 days to apply our global research methodology to each client.

Where our pricing varies is in the amount of analysis and reporting delivered back to the client as well as recommendations for solutions to improve their levels of employee engagement.

A client may simply wish to participate in the list and attempt to secure a position on it. This starts from 40,000 dhs. When you amortize this amount into a cost per employee, considering we interview on average 500 employees per organisation, companies are looking at 80 dhs per employee. Unfortunately we are not a volunteer-run organisation and we need to pay our qualified researchers to undertake this assessment.

Participation in the Top Companies program does not guarantee a company a place on our list. A position is only awarded if a company scores 70 points or higher in our TRUST Index and Culture Audit.

It is also important to mention that many of our clients participate in the list program to benchmark their levels of employee engagement without an objective to secure a position on the list.

Unfortunately, Shane’s article suggests we charge a minimum fee of AED 70,000 to companies to participate and this simply isn’t true.

Great Place to Work is a global research institute and the governance of our research methodology is strictly managed in every market where we operate. This allows our Top Companies participants to not only benchmark themselves against the local market, but also internationally.

While research underpins everything we do at Great Place to Work, we are first and foremost a consultancy company focused on improving the workplace experience. Our various lists are only a small part of our offering and are not a profit centre for us. They are a tool we use globally to help our clients understand any gaps they may have in their HR practices so we can recommend appropriate solutions and training to address these.

We felt it was important to clarify these points as we do not want your readers devaluing the excellent work taking place at the UAE’s Top Companies. These companies have put in place exemplary HR practices from which we can all learn. These deserve to be celebrated.

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